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Jeff Gordon qualifies 10th, teammates in top 26 at Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. –  Jeff Gordon, a nine-time road course winner, earned the 10th starting spot for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Sonoma Raceway. The California course marks the first road course of the 2013 season for the Cup Series.

His Hendrick Motorsports teammates rounded out the top 26: Kasey Kahne qualified 15th, followed by Jimmie Johnson in 19th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 26th.

In 24 Cup events (82 starts) at Sonoma, Hendrick Motorsports leads the competition at the road course in victories (six), top-five finishes (27), top-10s (39), pole positions (nine) and laps led (585). Jeff Gordon owns five of Hendrick Motorsports’ wins at Sonoma, while Johnson earned the organization’s most recent victory there in 2010.

Coverage of Sunday’s race is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET on TNT and MRN. Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 15th.
At Sonoma: In nine Sprint Cup starts at Sonoma, Calif., Kahne has one win and two top-five finishes. He has earned two pole positions and started in the top 10 six times in his last seven races at the 1.99-mile road course. Kahne has completed 98 percent of all laps attempted at the track (977 of 997 total) and led a total of 41 laps. Kahne’s one win at Sonoma came in 2009, when he started fifth and led 37 laps.
Most recently: Kahne lined up third at Michigan International Speedway this past weekend and was leading the field for his 14th circuit when he suffered a flat tire and made contact with the Turn 2 wall. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS was unable to return to the track due to the damage and was scored with a 38th-place finish. He now ranks 12th in the driver standings.
Kahne (On Sonoma.): “I’m a little bit better at Sonoma. You slide around more there, and it has somewhat slower corners. For whatever reason, I’ve taken to that track a little better than Watkins Glen (N.Y.), but I like going left and right and shifting and all that. It’s tough racing, and I’ve had to learn it all because I’ve had zero experience in that type of racing but I enjoy it. I’m glad that we go to two road courses each year.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 10th.
At Sonoma: In 20 starts at the 1.99-mile road course, Gordon has recorded a record five victories, five pole positions, 12 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and has led 450 laps. Gordon is the only driver to have scored consecutive victories at Sonoma Raceway, winning three-in-a-row from 1998 to 2000. He also owns the record for most road course wins all-time with nine.
Most recently: Gordon lined up from the 29th position last weekend at Michigan International Speedway and was collected in a two-car incident that sent the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS to the garage for repairs six laps into the event. After returning to the track, Gordon was able to improve four positions and come home with a 39th-place finish. He now sits 16th in the driver standings, nine points out of 12th.
Gordon (On the new Gen-6 car and new qualifying procedure at Sonoma.): “The new car is something we’ve never raced at Sonoma. We ran pretty decent in the older generation car here last year, and we feel pretty confident we can tune the Chevrolet SS this weekend. I’m really anxious to try it out to see how it (the new qualifying procedure) works. In the past, we’ve seen drivers run a good lap in practice and then struggle to back it up in qualifying. It was difficult to get temperature in the brakes and the tires in the limited time we had to get up to speed before the qualifying lap began. Now, we’re going to have as much time as we need to get the car ready for that lap.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 19th.
At Sonoma: In 11 starts at Sonoma Raceway, Johnson has recorded one win, four top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes and has completed 1,210 laps out of a possible 1,217 (99.4 percent). Johnson’s lone victory at the 1.99-mile road course came in 2010 after starting from the second position and leading 55 laps.
Most recently: Johnson finished 28th last weekend at Michigan International Speedway after cutting a tire with less than three laps-to-go while running second. With the finish, Johnson remains first in the driver standings, 31 points ahead of second-place Carl Edwards. 
Johnson (On Sonoma.): “I’m excited to get out there. It’s a beautiful time of year to be there. I’ve understood the track and have had some good runs there over the past few years and I look forward to going back out and hopefully getting another road course win.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 26th.
At Sonoma: Earnhardt has scored five top-15 finishes in 13 Sprint Cup starts at Sonoma, Calif. He has completed 93.9 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (1,353 laps of 1,441 total) at the 1.99-mile California road course. He has scored a career-best 11th-place finish three times there and most recently recorded this result in 2010.
Most recently: Earnhardt started from the 12th position and led 34 laps last weekend at Michigan International Speedway before engine issues ended his day early. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS now sits seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standing, 91 points behind teammate and points leader Jimmie Johnson. 
Earnhardt (On Sonoma.): “You have to go to Sonoma with a positive attitude and take whatever comes your way. Take the good with the bad the same. We have had a good season, and we want to continue that. We know the reality of the situation is I don’t have a top-10 finish here. We just have to see what we can do. We just have to try our best.”

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